Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The video infection of Wikipedia

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As I noted two years ago, one of the problems with the current Wikipedia is:

Increased use of animations instead of individual images to illustrate processes. Individual images are usually the superior choice for illustration, seeing that the users can jump back-and-forth as they please and can take their time or not. In addition, animations are highly destructive when trying to enjoy other parts of the page—like trying to read a book when someone waves a hand in front of the page once every second or so. With (at least) earlier browser/computers and some forms of animation (notably Flash) this also meant a considerable performance drain, especially for users of tabbed browsing. (I regularly have dozens of tabs open for days or weeks.) Unsurprisingly, to compensate, many users prefer to disable animations entirely, and these then have the problem that the animations are reduced to a single individual image with little or no value.

Since then, I have evermore often encountered something even worse: the inclusion of actual videos in lieu of text—but if I visit Wikipedia, it is to read about a topic. Moreover, these often give the first* impression of having a self-promotional “Youtube-y” character. For instance, the first shot shown to the Wikipedia visitors is often an entirely uninformative image of a speaker, as with e.g. the current version of the article on Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Here there is a video described as “A video on the history of black lung disease” depicting an older man in a shirt, apparently about to launch into a speech.

*I never watch them, so more than a first impression will necessarily be absent.


If the maker of the video is one of the editors or otherwise wants to contribute to the page, then he should write a section on this history and put it in the article. If he is a third party, then his video might or might not be worthy of inclusion among the “External links”. To include the video in the middle of the actual article is utterly idiotic.

Apart from Wikipedia naturally being a text medium, I note that this type of video brings a number of disadvantages, e.g. wasted bandwidth, in-text searches that do not find the information, screen-readers who will stumble on them,* the security risks associated with active contents from unknown** sources, and the lower rate of information processing forced upon the viewer compared to the reader. Even from the Wikipedia editors’ point of view there are disadvantages, e.g. (in addition!) that it will be harder to discover and often impossible to correct the type of information that is consider unwanted*** in the article.

*In a twist potentially making such videos detrimental for those with impaired eye-sight.

**Note that while Wikipedia, it self, is a known entity, this does not necessarily apply to editors, uploaders, whatnot—anyone can contribute and malicious activities are not necessarily caught in time by the other editors.

***E.g. outdated science, sensitive or dubious information about living persons, and copyright violations.

Editors: Please, never, ever include videos in this manner—and throw those that you encounter out in a summary manner.

Visitors: Please, never, ever watch these videos.

Self-promoters, etc.: Leave Wikipedia alone!


Written by michaeleriksson

June 7, 2020 at 1:26 pm

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